Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Trust and Thorough

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As I was reading the first 13 verses in 2 Timothy 4 this morning, the 5th verse really caught my attention; especially the way Peterson paraphrases it in The Message:

But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.

Two words impress upon me this morning as I read this: Trust and Thorough.

I'm captivated by the phrase "accept the hard times along with the good".  I've vented a lot here over the last few months about my disappointment, frustration, anger, and just plain irritation with events at my job this past year.   I've investigated what the Word has to say about hardships in life, and realize more and more how hard times are just a part of the whole picture; even really hard times.  

In his devotional Silent Strength, Lloyd Olgilvie shares his take on it this way: "we back away from the cost of discipleship when the going gets tough because we don't trust Christ to bring good out of difficulties".  I can't help but think of Romans 8:28 when I read that.  Can't help but as myself that same old question that I come back to so often - am I gonna trust God or not?

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Thorough is an interesting word.  Wikipedia dictionary defines it this way:
  1. Complete with regard to every detail; not superficial or partial: "planners need a thorough understanding of the subject".
  2. Performed or written with great care and completeness: "a thorough examination of the wreckage". "
I want that to be able to be said of me - that I do a thorough job as God's  servant!

Last year I got into the idea of picking 1 or 2 words to be the focus or goal for the upcoming year instead of goals per say.  This year I'm thinking that I  want trust and thorough to be my words.

What about you, what words do you see yourself wanting to be your focus for 2013?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Grateful for Grace

One of the things that I adore most about the holidays is that my sons come home for some of the time!  Devon's here from North Carolina, so Daniel came over yesterday to spend time with him and stayed for dinner so we all got some time together.

During dinner Daniel was sharing about a Bible study that a friend has invited him to that he's gone to a couple of times.  He shared that they wanted to put him through this 9-week course with them so he said sure since he wants to have a regular time in his life when he digs into the Word with others of like faith.  But then he told me that he started to become uncomfortable because they keep emphasizing "discipleship" and saying that others aren't "real" Christians unless they are making disciples.  They asked if he felt like he's a real Christian and he said yes; then they went through a study and asked if he still did (in light of the fact that he's not "making disciples" in the way they define it) and he still said yes.  He knows that his salvation and the "realness" of his Christianity are based on Jesus and God's grace extended to him through Jesus, not on any actions of his own.  He told me that he gets that the Word tells him to go make disciples, but that he's not comfortable with the way they are talking. 

Daniel wants everything in his life to be based on what the Word says.  He kind of knows that what these people are saying isn't right, but he wanted some help with where the Bible says what that relates to this.   So this morning I wanted to spend some time in the Word and find some scriptures to share with him, and these are a few that I quickly came up with:

 Titus 3:3-8
This passage makes it so clear that there's no Jesus plus anything; it's all about God's work for us through Jesus that brings us into relationship with Him and makes us right.

John 6:28-29
How much more clear can we get?  The only work that God requires is that we believe, have faith, in Jesus.  It's all about our trust in Him, not in ourselves and our works.

Romans 4:4-5
Our works do not make us right with God, our choice to accept and believe in Jesus' work does.

Ephesians 2:8-10
Now this one's interesting because it speaks to how it is by His grace alone that we're saved, and that the ability to believe in Him is even a gift from Him, but it also brings up the works topic.  It states that He created us to do good works.  So He has plans for us to be about doing good, but it's not the doing good that brings us into right relationship with Him-that's pure grace.

Acts 15:1-11
This is a situation where some people wanted to put some scripture based requirements on the followers of Christ and they are told that the only way one is saved is through faith in Christ.

What I find myself wanting to emphasize is that the more I come to understand on a deep, experiential, level the grace of God, the more I want my life to be filled with doing good things, the more I want to be obedient in every area.  So, it's only His grace that saves me, and then it's the Holy Spirit's power within me that gives me the power to live His kind of lifestyle.

I don't know about what these folks Daniel's met mean by "discipleship", but I do know that I believe our current church culture  in America does not seem to focus enough on relationship.  I don't see the focus on coming along side of others and mentoring them in their faith.  But  I do see so much of this in the apostle Paul's example in the Word, and I do think our lives should be filled with relationship, and helping others in their faith in the ways God's gifted us to  do that.  However, this is not some kind of litmus test for "realness" of Christianity.

What about you, do you have any thoughts on this?  I'd be interested in what others have to say on this topic.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Passionate patience

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My youngest son is in a challenging living situation; he's living with my mom while attending college since the school he's going to is close to her home and about an hour commute from our house.  My mom isn't the problem; it's my sister who lives there with her daughter.  My sister doesn't really have a life of her own so she's overly involved in those around her and basically doesn't have boundaries.  She's incredibly intrusive and you'd have to see/experience it to realize how over-the-top terrible it can be.

When Daniel came over last night (what a blessing that my 18-year old wants to stop by to visit!) he briefly mentioned that he's been studying in James during his personal time with God and knows that his current challenges are being used by God to make him more who God wants him to be. (Double blessing that in this crazy world that God's goodness has reached into the life of my 18-year old and is holding him steadfast!)

Though he didn't speak of it I know that he's told me in the past that sometimes it's hard because he sees situations around him so differently than his unsaved contemporaries.  He has lots of friends, many of whom don't yet know Jesus, and sometimes he feels alone because his reality differs from most of those around him.

I felt impressed this morning to do some studying about God's working in our lives through hardship and to maybe share a few verses with Daniel.  These are the treasures that I was blessed by:

Romans 5:1-10
I adore the way Peterson paraphrases this passage in The Message, the 2nd part of verse 3-5 reads this way:
We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. 

Romans 8:18-30
There's so much here....perspective-this life is just a very small part of the picture, the fact that the Holy Spirit in us prays when we don't know how, that God turns every single thing around to our good, but most of all....GLORY!!!  His glory, and His working in us to participate in that Glory - WOW!

Ephesians 3:12-14, 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8
Sometimes God allows our suffering to be used to help others.  If it weren't for the fact that God's blessed me with children, I'm not sure how well I could understand this.  To be candid, I basically struggle with selfishness; but I'd do anything for my kids.  We have spiritual children too, or people who are watching us and that God uses our hardship and how we let Him empower us to deal with it, to witness of His greatness. Our example might till the soil of their hearts to be able to accept the Word when it comes.

2 Corinthians 6:3-10
It seems that hardship is an expected part of life, and that we can count on the Holy Spirit to see us through and give us joy in the midst of hard times.

2 Timothy 1:7-12
Again there's this thought that suffering is expected.  But that God's grace, and His Holy Spirit in us, is more than enough to see us through.  That our focus, our priorities, are to be on His Kingdom work.

2 Timothy 2:1-10
We've got this thought process going on that shows our desire above all else to please our God and Savior Christ Jesus.  That we'll endure any hardship or suffering by His power in us so that we can participate in His Kingdom work and so that others might become part of this movement.

1 Peter 2:11-12
This is one of my favorite passages because it points out that our lives are not about this world and what we see in front of us.  This passage is not directly about hardship or tribulations, but it's about focus; that our focus is not to be about this world but about His Kingdom.

Gosh, I started looking up these verses for Daniel, and I hope they're a blessing to him, but I know that I'm one who needs to meditate on them.  That I need to keep in the forefront of my mind that my life was bought with a price and what I see in front of me in the day to day is not exactly what its all about.  It's about letting Him re-frame what's in front of me so that I can make the most of every opportunity to advance His kingdom.

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